What To Look For in a Personal Chef

  • Mary Macpherson
  • 03/31/21

Personal chefs aren’t just for the rich and the famous; they can be quite affordable and ideal for busy families, couples, and individuals or for those who have strict dietary needs. For some hectic schedules, a meal prep service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh doesn’t cut it. When you hire a personal chef, not only will you free yourself up from grocery planning, shopping, and cooking, but you’ll also get delicious meals in the process! 

If you’re always on the go, looking to eat healthier, having a busier month than usual, or would just like to spend more time with your loved ones or guests, hiring a personal chef could be a powerful — and tasty — step for your household. Here are some helpful things to consider when you set out on your culinary search. 

Background & Experience 

Experience is everything. A good place to start is learning how your potential personal chef has acquired their cooking expertise over the years. Some have found their love for food and honed their craft cooking for their families, while others shaped their skills by taking classes or working in the restaurant industry. Cultural background can also influence their cooking style. 

Ask yourself if certification, national organization affiliation, or professional affiliation is important to you, but know there is no wrong answer. Some prefer a chef who has professional training, while others like the idea of self-trained chefs. Researching or asking about where they developed their cooking skills is a great start to figuring out if they are a good match. It’s also nice to find out why they’re passionate about cooking; there are some great and inspiring stories out there!

Professional Organizations & Affiliations

If you prefer a chef with official professional training, you’ll want someone who has been certified or is a professionally affiliated chef. When a chef is affiliated with a professional organization, this shows they are committed to conducting business in a professional manner. This also means that the chef maintains high culinary standards and has been through thorough training in safe food handling and preparation. 

Through these national and sometimes international associations, the chefs typically have current and lasting access to the latest industry trends, ideas, insights, and culinary research. Some notable examples include the American Personal and Private Chef Association, the International Association of Professional Organizations, and the United States Personal Chef Association. Hiring based on professional organization and affiliation alone simply ensures that your candidates have been fully vetted by industry professionals. Once again, if a personal chef you like does not belong to a professional chef organization, that doesn't mean they’re not reputable cooks. Hands-on work experience and training in a restaurant can be just as rigorous — and is less expensive than getting certified in most cases. 

Offerings & Uniqueness

Not only should you find out more about your candidates’ personal and professional background, but you should also figure out what each chef offers. Some offer custom menus, some do in-home meal preparation, and some even offer storage and cleanup. If you have dietary preferences or restrictions, this is your time to shine. The biggest mistake you could make in your search is assuming that every chef offers the same thing. 

In addition to knowing the basics of your chef’s package or packages, you also want to seek out answers that illustrate their use of high-quality food ingredients, sound food-safety practices, and menu creativity. Does their service differ from other personal chefs? How? Each chef has something unique to offer, whether it be their style of cooking, their knowledge, or their type of cuisine. 

Cost & Fees

Personal chef costs and fees vary—some price per entrée, some per serving. Additionally, there may be multiple fees that make up and represent different components of their service beyond the act of cooking and cleaning. For example, the assessment and menu-assembling process that a personal chef goes through to determine your likes, needs, and requirements is all part of their time and job. Shopping for all of the necessary groceries, packaging the food, labeling the food, and storing the food can all be features included in the final price. 

If hiring a personal chef is looking a little too pricey for you, splitting the service with another family member or a friend can make the choice more affordable. When you know what goes into the cost of a personal chef and come up with a budget so you know what chefs you can afford, you’ll avoid any surprises and make the prospect much more affordable. 

Sample Meals & Menus

After you’ve gathered all of your research and have figured out what you think works best for you, you can ask to review a sample menu or menus. These will provide direct insight into what the chef typically makes, although a sample menu might not reflect the full range of what the chef could be cooking for you. It is highly recommended that you ask any chefs you are considering whether they offer a trial run or meal for a reduced fee. If they don’t offer, inquire about hiring them for a full-price trial period of a week or two instead. If you're hiring the personal chef for a one-time event, you can request a single test-run meal to ensure they meet your expectations. Not every chef has or advertises these options, but it never hurts your palette or your wallet to check!

References & Recommendations

Reputation is key. Personal chefs should always be able to provide testimonials and endorsements from their previous clients. You also don’t have to wait for the chefs you’re considering to provide you with trusted customer experiences; you can seek out recommendations for a personal chef from family and friends! 

If you’ve decided a personal chef isn’t right for you, you may even know an amateur cook who would like to help you with these services for a reduced fee. Before you move forward with that option, check with your local laws to make sure that personal chefs are not required to have a business license, food handling certification, or both.

Insurance & Protection

Safety comes first. Just like any other working professionals who may step foot into your home, you want to know that in the case of an unfortunate event, you and your family are protected if the chef’s actions in your kitchen cause injury or harm to a person or your property. Be sure that your personal chef has the appropriate insurance to make things right and properly reimburse you if an accident of any sort does take place. 

Personality & Fit

Your relationship with your personal chef is just that: personal. They will be cooking in your kitchen, which means you should find someone who you feel comfortable having in your home for a long period of time — or at least delivering to your home during the pandemic. The chef will most likely be crafting several different entrées and side dishes, so there’s a good chance the cooking process will take several hours. Plus, since your chef will be curating personalized meals for you, it makes the process more enjoyable when you like them, get along with them, and feel like they understand you. 

Hiring a personal chef is like developing a relationship with a trusted family physician — you want to know they care! Set up meetings or interviews with several strong candidates. If they haven’t already been provided, ask if they can bring sample menus, testimonials or references, insurance or protection plan, and anything else you think you may need from them. Have them explain how they operate their business and their process in the kitchen from start to finish. This is also the time to ask how much they charge and what you will be expected to pay. 

And of course, you want to make sure that you like being around them or having them around. If you have any, make sure to discuss privacy concerns, including your lifestyle and health.

Ready To Get Cooking?

Looking forward to having a personal chef in your new home in the Bay Area? Mary Macpherson would love to assist you in navigating San Francisco Bay real estate by becoming your Ashbury Heights or Bernal Heights realtor. Contact us today!


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